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Tech Talk: The Year in Gear

Here we are again at the end of another year in audio. How’s the weather?

I live in Nashville, which is growing at an astounding rate. The studio and live business here is brisk, with a lot of bands either moving in or coming through town to record or play the local venues. Your area and experience will differ but what we all have in common is the gear that comes through the pipeline.

In some cases prices are dropping; for example, Steven Slate lowered his Everything Bundle prices across the board, It’s now $14.99 monthly for the annual plan; $24.99 month to month; or $179.88 flat rate for the year. Slate also bowed the VerbSuite Classic, FG-STRESS plug-in model of the Distressor, and the D16 Repeater modeling 23 classic and neo-classic delays.

Plugin Alliance has launched its Holiday calendar sale with a different plug-in offered on special every day. They were going for $9 each in November, so there should be some great deals to be had this month, as well. PA has also been busy developing new products, releasing the new brainworx bx_rooMS reverb and Unfiltered Audio Sandman Pro delay.

Affordable gear in 2016 isn’t just about plug-ins. ATC released its most affordable monitor yet at AES. The SCM12 Pro is a passive, two-way monitor with a 6-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter that goes for $1,990. ATC’s P1 Pro amp stays upmarket, providing 150 W of clean power for $3,490. Watch for my review in the new year. Also affordable, and out of the ordinary, is the BAE Hot Fuzz guitar pedal ($225). It’s two pedals in one that can be used in parallel or in series. The left side is a high-frequency boost, and the right side is an English 1970s-style fuzz box. Radial Engineering, the company that regularly comes to NAMM and AES with a dozen or so new products, released the Studio Q talkback system for $299.99, and the LX2 and LX3 passive line splitters.

Just a month or so ago, Avid released Pro Tools 12.6, which I chose as one of my Top Gear picks for the year. When 12.5 bowed with elegant, embedded collaboration tools, I thought, “How can you top this?” But they did. The new clip-based channel strip in Pro Tools 12.6 HD is top-notch. Read my review in this issue for the full skinny. My next favorites pick is the Focal Trio 6BE monitor. They are full-range, offering plenty of booty-kicking power, and like Focal’s SM9, the 6BE is two systems in one box. The Focus mode lets you quickly A/B between a three-way and two-way system at the push of a footswitch. Last on my list is the Chandler Limited RS124 compressor (Mix November 2016). It’s a new-classic version of three coveted hardware compressors from Abbey Road’s Beatle era. It is nothing short of delicious imparting sonic personality that works on any style of music.

Mix reviewer Barry Rudolph’s favorites from 2016 include the PSI Audio Active Velocity Acoustic Absorber C20. Barry put it into his own room and found that it solves low-frequency room mode issues in an entirely new and revolutionary way. Working with passive room treatment panels, two or more AVAA C20s can be more effective and take the place of much larger bass traps in controlling small room acoustic problems. Read his review online from our June 2016 issue. Barry also picked DMG Audio’s Limitless Mastering Limiter plug-in (Mix July 2016). It’s only $199, and Barry says, You can have your mixes loud, achieve a specific LUFS target loudness if required, yet retain musicality and high-quality sound with minimal negative artifacts.”

UK-based engineer Wes Maebe picked the UA Apollo 8p interface (Mix October 2016). Wes found that it delivered a transparent sound and was extremely intuitive to use. But if you’re after a colored sound, the Unison plug-in suite will provide that latency free. Wes summed it up nicely, “If you’re looking for a box that will give you crisp and clean microphone preamps with the ability to turn them into classic and vintage sounding ones, look no further.” He also liked the Meris Mercury 7 500 Series reverb ($549). It’s a sound shaper that allows you to alter reverb creatively rather than just dial in time and pre-delay.

Mix reviewer Brandon T. Hickey spends most of his time engineering audio for independent films. He loved the Audio Ease Indoor reverb plug-in and said, “I had never imagined the elaborate graphics, nor the effect that they would have on quickly finding a sound, but also the ability to powerfully pan sounds into that environment.” Read his review of Indoor in November 2016 Mix. Second on his list was the Radial Space Heater 8×2 analog summing mixer. “It is hard to imagine any single piece of gear that could have a more profound influence on all of your recordings and mixes than the Space Heater,” said Brandon. But B! Tell us how you really feel!

In a year that brought a lot of ups and downs, it’s a relief to know that our audio world still turns, and we’re still making movies, records, and loving the art of making sound. Thank you all for reading Mix and this column and if you’d like to communicate, ping me on Facebook and let’s talk shop!